Anne Arundel County horse people are pulling together to aggressively fight a bill that would expand deer hunting on Sundays on private property in their county. (Click here to read The Equiery’s original post n the 2014 Sunday Hunting bills.)
According to Rob McNab (former president of Trail Riders of Today, a.k.a. TORT, and the current TROT representative to the Board of Directors of the Maryland Horse Council), expansion of deer hunting to Sundays will have a chilling effect on the ability of anyone else to use the land: “Private land is the only place we are able to ride other than the North Track of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Because of hunting, the North Track is already closed to visitors Monday thru Saturday, September 1 thru January 31. Passage of the legislation will most likely cause the North Track to be closed on Sundays as well. With the closing of North Track, there will be no public or private place to trail ride in AA for five months of the year.”
Incensed at being told that SB 191 and HB 197 are a “done deal” and “give it up, you can’t fight it,” joint Master for the Marlborough Hunt Club Christy Clagett and former Maryland Horse Council president Steuart Pittman are leading the charge that says, “yes, we can and we will fight this.”
As is often the case, the Anne Arundel County Sunday Hunting bills were slipped quietly and without fanfare into the legislative session. The Sunday Hunting lobby is a well coordinated coalition that has methodically been working for years to expand deer hunting on Sundays bit by bit every year, and they have hit on a very successful formula for passing such legislation.
The Sunday Hunting coalitions start by quietly garnering the support of the county delegations well before the state legislative session starts. In other words, “off the radar.” In so doing, they are able to foster an illusion that there is no opposition to the idea. Support is triangulated, as farmers will attest that they desperately need the deer populations reduced, homeowners associations want the deep populations reduced so that their landscaping is not shredded. Insurance companies, tired of paying out claims for auto damage from deer collisions, are likewise eager to see the herds reduced. Relations are leveraged into courtesy bills, and by the time the proposal is actually filed a bill, for all intents and purposes, the legislators have checked off that this is “done.”
And without a tremendously vocal pushback from other trail and land users, including hunters who oppose expanded Sunday deer hunting, these bills do indeed tend to pass into law.
Clagett and Pittman are not standing quietly by. They are leading a full cavalry charge against the Sunday Hunting proponents…a quest which many consider to be akin to the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade. The Equiery, however, does not share this perspective. Instead, The Equiery cheers them on, as we each year we see similar bills defeated in other counties as a result of similar charges led by determined horse men and women.
The Battle So Far
There are three battlegrounds: the county delegation itself (getting them to reverse their support of the bills), the House Environmental Committee (which will hear HB 197) and the Senate Committee for Education, Health and Environmental Affairs. Each battlefront provides and opportunity to kill the bills. Even if the bills pass in one chamber, doesn’t mean the bills will pass out of both Chambers and into law. But it is a tough battle.
Clagett and Pittman lobbed the first offensive with a letter to the Anne Arundel County delegation, which met last Friday. Jan. 24. Apparently, the delegation refused to allow them to provide verbal testimony, as which point Pittman and Clagett took their concerns to the public.
This letter methodically dismantles the Del. Costa (the House Bill’s sponsor) assertions:
We have great respect for Delegate Costa, but his presentation in support of his bill seemed to be colored by his personal enthusiasm for deer hunting. Here are a few of the responses to his testimony that we would have presented had we been allowed to speak.
1. The argument that the bill affects only a few Sundays is not true. The bill allows Sunday hunting during archery, muzzle loader, and firearm season from October into January.
2. Delegate Costa argued that landowners can choose whether to allow hunters and whether to allow hikers and riders, and that they don’t allow both at the same time. In fact, we do allow both. A tradition exists in rural parts of the county where networks of trails run across property lines to allow equestrians and neighbors to ride, walk, and visit. We all suffer from crop damage by deer so most of us give permission to hunters to hunt our properties during the deer season. Recreational users of the land, hunters, and landowners know when it is deer season. We know that Saturdays are heavy with hunters, weekdays are lighter, and Sundays are safe for other activities. Allowing Sunday hunting on private land makes it a heavy day for hunting and makes the trails unsafe.
3. Delegate Costa suggested that property lines divide areas where hunting is taking place from those where recreational activities are going on. The reality on the trails is that neither the hunters nor the recreational users know where the lines are. Most are unmarked.
What can you do?
The Senate Bill will be heard today, at 1:45 p.m. in the Committee for Education, Health and Environmental Matters, and a hearing tomorrow, Jan. 9, in the House Environmental Matters Committee. Lastly, the County Delegation meeting will be this Friday, Jan. 31 at 9 a.m. MHC is calling for as many people to testify as possible, and are encouraging horse people to reach out to other land users (hikers, bikers, bird watchers and others). Click here for instruction either how to testify or on writing letters,
Click here for detailed instructions for the hearings and for writing letters of opposition.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: When The Equiery publishes editorials against expanded Sunday deer hunting, we frequently receive “flaming” comments alleging that we are “anti-gun” and this is part of an “anti-hunting/animal rights” campaign. That could not be further from the truth. For the record, it should be noted that the publisher and the associate publisher of this site each owns a shotgun and each participates in hunting sports. Likewise, one of the Maryland Horse Council leaders in the effort to stop the expansion of Sunday deer hunting, Royce Herman, is a licensed firearm instructor. We support hunting sports, including gunning and foxchasing. We also agree that the Maryland deer herd population, which is greater now than it was in Colonial Maryland, needs to be drastically curtailed.
We support multi-user access to and sharing of lands with other user groups (which means leaving one weekend day gunless), and we support other, proven means of increasing the annual deer harvests, including more sharpshooter hunts and increasing bag limits and requirements for increased take of anter-less deer prior to trophy deer.